By Tim Lasiuta
Which Hopalong Cassidy do you like?
Do you think of the Hopalong Cassidy of
television and movie fame, the Hopalong Cassidy that drank milk, the Hopalong
Cassidy who was nice to almost everyone, and never swore?
Or do you like the Hopalong Cassidy who was a
drinker, smoker, gambler, fighter, and ornery as a wildcat on a hunt?
Chances are, if you are a baby boomer, you
don’t know the latter Cassidy, and only remember Bill Boyd as the man in
black. If you don’t know the drinking, swearing, gambling, fighting, Cassidy,
you are missing something.
Cassidy was born in the fertile imagination of Clarence E Mulford in 1905. The
first of the ‘Bar 20’ sagas, "The Fight at Bucksin", was printed
in "Outing Magazine" in December, 1905. For over 45 years, the
Hopalong Cassidy of Clarence E Mulford was the diametric opposite of Bill Boyd
and the Hollywood image.
As a matter of fact, in the first Hopalong
novel, "Bar 20" , consisted of 8 "Outing" stories, Hoppy
shoots up a town drunk, kills, gambles (and wins), prospects for gold, and
almost falls in ‘love’.
The book ends with a warning "Why don’t
you get away while you can? Why do you want to throw yourself against certain
death? I don’t want my pleasure marred by a murder, an’ that is what it will
be if you makes a gun-ply at Hopalong. He’ll shoot you as he did yore buttons.
Take yore pretty clothes an’ yore pretty cayuse an’ go where this is not
known, an’ if ever again you feels like killing Hopalong, get drunk an’
(Bar 20, page 382)
The Hopalong Cassidy of Clarence E Mulford was
described by Mulford as "His Stetson was five to ten years old, and had
withstood the suns, rains, dusts and winds for all that time, and he had slept
with it under his hips time without number. Being a horseman and bow-legged, the
outer edges of his boot heels were badly worn down, and it is doubtful if they
had had ten coats of polish in their existence; and they were likely cowhide
boots to begin with. After all, when a rancher hired a cow-hand (and that’s
what they were—cow-hands), he hired the man to ride range, break horses, cut
hay, stack it, round-up, throw, hog-tie, and brand cattle. That man would likely
smell like a horse." (letter to J D Tropp)
The Hopalong Cassidy of Hollywood was far
different. Bill Boyd’s Hoppy possessed a clean, relatively new white Stetson,
he was not bow-legged, nor did he limp. His clothes were clean, and well
pressed, and rarely were shown dirty. His boots, were not the boots of a cowboy,
but more that of a dude. The Hollywood Hoppy may have ridden range, but unless
he carried a tailor, cleaner, and bootmaker with him during his work, he would
still have smelled like a horse, and looked like a cow-hand.
Intelectually speaking, the Mulford Hoppy
would rather have beat the bad guy up instead of try to talk his way out of a
scrap. He would have shot first in warning, then he would let his 45 pistols do
his talking. The Hollywood Hoppy would have talked first, then fought.
The Mulford Hoppy fought range wars. The
Hollywood Hoppy stopped range wars.
His Hopalong Cassidy novels include "Bar
20" (1907), "Hopalong Cassidy" (1910), "Bar 20 Days"
(1911), "The Coming of Cassidy" (1913), "The Man From Bar
20" (1918), "The Bar 20 Three" (1921), "Hopalong Cassidy
Returns" (1924), "Hopalong Cassidy’s Protégé" (1926),
"Bar 20 Rides Again" (1926), "Hopalong Cassidy and the Eagles
Brood" (1931), "Hopalong Cassidy Takes Cards" (1937), and his
final Hoppy novel, "Hopalong Cassidy Serves A Writ" (1941). As well as
a few other Hopalong Cassidy short stories, his final published story appeared
in June of 1953. He also wrote novels that featured other characters from the
Bar 20 sagas. Such as Tex Ewalt, J C Corson, and Mesquite Jenkins. He also wrote
numerous fillers for Argosy, Frontier, Short Stories, Pearsons, and West
Over his lifetime, his publishing record (with
A C McLurg, Grosset and Dunlap, Doubleday, A L Burt, Dell and Popular Books) and
the resulting royalties have earned him as one of the top 5 pulp writers of all
times. Max Brand, Edgar Rice Burroughs, and Zane Grey were his compatriots in
Harry "Pop" Sherman produced the
first Hopalong Cassidy movie in 1935. The prematurely gray Bill Boyd portrayed
the popular character differently. As noted above, he played the character as
moral, caring, and compassionate in "Hopalong Cassidy".
Well received by audiences, the ‘new’
Hopalong Cassidy took the entertainment world by storm for 20 more years. 65
pictures were to follow that would place Hoppy and Topper in the entertainment
hall of fame. In 1949, Bill Boyd purchased the rights to Hopalong Cassidy from
Clarence Mulford with all that he owned, and within a year he had taken the
merchandising world by storm. The Hopalong pictures he had made for 14 years
were playing everywhere in America. Bill Boyd’s big gamble had paid off. Hoppy
was it, and Bill Boyd had become Hopalong Cassidy just as Clayton Moore had
become the Lone Ranger.
His television show, which was a ground
breaker as well, premiered in 1949, and when the 66 movies had run in edited
form, he went on to produce new episodes for his millions of fans.
In addition to his television success,
Hopalong Cassidy appeared on the radio, in the newspapers, on the newsstands in
comic book form, and his image appeared everywhere on clothing, toys, books,
school supplies, and even food containers. The first licensed lunch kit was a
Hopalong Cassidy product, and this set the stage for the ‘rest’ of the
As the new Hoppy was emerging as a cultural
force, Boyd developed the Hopalong Code of Conduct, and Hoppy’s Troopers
(similar to the Boy Scouts).
Hopalong Cassidy was a phenomenon like no
other. After him followed the Lone Ranger, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Rex
Allen. Each adopted some of the marketing strategies of Bill Boyd. Bill Boyd may
not have been the best, but he was the first, and he was a true pioneer.
Bill Boyd passed away in 1974, and left behind
a legacy that will never die.
Today, Hopalong Cassidy is alive and well.
Sagebrush Entertainment, the copyright holder, has restored the Hopalong Cassidy
films and the TV series is not far behind. If we are fortunate, the radio series
will soon follow so we can follow the adventures of the man from the Bar 20.
Unlike Roy Rogers, Rex Allen, and Gene Autry,
fans have not had a permanent museum to rekindle their youths with Hopalong
until this year. The Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Diner has announced plans to build
the "Hopalong Cassidy Museum", in Kenton, Missouri. The proposed
facility will include rare collectibles directly from the copyright holders, a
theatre, and other soon to be announced attractions.
No, Hopalong Cassidy is not dead.
Not even close.
On the internet, you can find Hoppy at:
Hoppy merchandise is difficult to find but the following links will help you
complete your collection.
Suggested reading includes:
Cassidy, The Clarence Mulford Story
Bernard A Drew: Scarecrow
Press, Inc www.scarecrowpress.com
And any of the hardcovers or paperbacks.
So, after you have read an original Hopalong
Cassidy, and watched one of the restored films, you decide which Hopalong you
like. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
Clarence E Mulford wrote for a different
generation. Those that first read the Hopalong Cassidy stories were not
necessarily those who drove the early Hoppy films and the craze of the 1950’s.
I picture it this way, while the children read
the comic books, listened to the radio plays, and watched the television show,
the fathers, and grandfathers read the original stories. While Hoppy walked into
a town, and shot it up, Bill Boyd galloped in, and with style and minimal
violence achieved the same end.
Different times. Different methods.
Does the Hollywood Hoppy necessarily minimize
the Mulford Hoppy?
I believe they are foils of the same
character. Neither is right, nor wrong. The new Hoppy was more moral and
socially acceptable, where Mulford’s Hoppy did what he had to do, and left
others to clean up.
Mulford’s aim was not to teach, but to
entertain. This he did exceptionally well.
It really does not matter which Hoppy you
prefer, the gambler, or the peacemaker. What matters is that you, as a reader,
(or viewer), were taken from your present circumstance for just a little while,
and saw right win over wrong.
After reading Bernard A Drew’s study of
Mulford, and the evolution of Hoppy, I think he would have agreed.
Long Live Hopalong Cassidy!